In 2017, two Category 5 hurricanes struck the Caribbean within two weeks of each other. Hurricane Maria landed on the independent island of Dominica at 9:35pm on September 18th with winds up to 160 mph and higher gusts. 80% of the population was directly affected and 90% of roofs were damaged or destroyed. An initial response team arrived in the country 3 months after the disaster and through a series of assessments with the Ministry of Education began working on the Paix Bouche Primary School in the north. Paix Bouche is 21 miles north of the capital of Roseau. The town is situated on top and within a valley leading to the western Caribbean sea. The school’s roof was completely destroyed rendering it’s effectiveness as a hurricane shelter useless. The majority of the windows and hurricane shutters were torn from the building. Paix Bouche lost both it’s sole primary school and hurricane shelter.

With the help of engineer Oluwaseun Okunsanya, Wynyard Esprit, and Engineers without Borders, we designed a new roof, replaced all of the hollow CMU blocks with reinforced CMU, redesigned windows, doors, and redesigned a new first floor layout. The buildings columns and beams were the only things that remained of the original building. It is now recognized as a hurricane shelter and got students back to school in September just for the start of the new year. We fully renovated the adjacent stage and bathroom block. As well as assessing other schools in the area, I managed the project during construction working closely with the Ministry of Education and Engineers without Borders throughout the project. 

Photos by Vanessa Rayner and Gerojie Adams

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